Three top newspaper publishers are behind ShopLocal, a new online bargain-hunting tool that aims to shore up local ad revenue as print classifieds falter.
ShopLocal is a searchable directory of local specials and sale items similar to those found in newspaper circulars. It was developed by CrossMedia Services, a company jointly owned by Gannett Co., Knight Ridder and Tribune Company.
The launch of ShopLocal consists of a national Web site along with numerous co-branded sites available through 140 newspapers owned by CrossMedia’s investors. The offering uses keyword and zip code search to locate special offers from stores within a specified radius of a searcher’s location.
ShopLocal is not made to help users turn up business listings or product information. Rather it presents a set of offers and sales that can be added to an online shopping list, which can then be printed and brought to the physical store where the offer is available. They are the same offers one will find folded into newspapers and direct marketing envelopes, merely transferred to the online medium.
“Retailers will reach — and pay for — only interested buyers,” said CrossMedia CEO Brian Hand. “Since ShopLocal is based on the same materials retailers already use for sales circulars, catalogs, run-of-press ads and direct mail, we make it easy for them to take advantage of this audience.”
ShopLocal is at least in part an attempt by the big newspaper companies to address the advanced local capabilities now being tested by the Internet’s top search engines.
Google’s local search platform went into beta testing in April 2004, and the company rolled out local ad targeting a few months after that. Yahoo and its Overture subsidiary delivered products of their own this summer. AskJeeves has also entered the space through a deal with Citysearch.
The rapid-fire offerings pose a threat to newspapers’ traditional dominance when it comes to local ad dollars. Before this year, the Yellow Pages were considered to be newspapers’ main competition for local ad budgets.
CrossMedia owners Gannett, Knight Ridder and the Tribune Company are partners in other joint ventures that involve online classifieds, such as CareerBuilder.com, Cars.com, and Apartments.com. CrossMedia’s clients include Home Depot, Target, Staples, CVS and JC Penney.